Friday, December 31, 2010


"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years." - Mark Twain one said that parenting would be easy. Actually no one said anything much about parenting. What I heard from most folks was how having kids would fill my life with boundless joy. Somewhere in all the mix of that conversation, no one spent much time conversing on the topic of parenting itself. Surely, when I was pregnant and joyfully ingnorant about what lay ahead did anyone say, "Good luck, sister. Parenting is hard and at times you will question the very foundation upon which YOU have built your entire life."

I write this morning smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. My children are nestled in bed...well that's not totally is nestled underneath a blanket on a couch in the living room, cell phone hanging by its cord half way off the couch next to her and the other is nestled in the guest bedroom of his best buddy's house, my last contact with him was at 1:20 a.m. this morning.

I am the mother to two teenagers. That alone makes those who have been through it shake their heads and then respectfully offer up the secret handshake as former members to the "parent-to-teen" fraternity. Before I entered the land of teendom I used to say things like, " can't be that challenging. I have an open relationship with my kids. They know they can trust me to be a resource for them when they are troubled" or how 'bout this little ditty. "I actually look forward to the challenges of the teen years. It is through those challenges that we will find strength. It is through those challenges that the hard edges of our exteriors are worn down to reveal the shining light from within." (Is this where the sappy music plays and the playful giggles of children dances upon the air?)

Yep...all the glory of language and the mantra of collaborative parent-child parenting worked so least while things were easy and my kids were still...well...little kids.

But I've got news for you. It's not easy. The first line in one of my favorite books of all time "The Road Less Traveled" states that "Life is difficult."

Ironically, what I'm discovering, though, isn't that life is difficult, but that accepting that life is difficult is the difficult part (Does that make sense? Please tell me that makes sense!)...especially when you are a teenager and you haven't lived long enough to see that "this too shall pass" and that everything really is gonna be okay. As the mother to teenagers nothing is harder for ME than seeing my children grapple with the difficult parts of THEIR lives and their resistance to accept that it is difficult and is just gonna be really hard at times. Maybe its about time I accept it, too.

I'm not sure why I find myself writing about this, this morning. I know that whenever I post a status on my Facebook page such as "Hang in there" or "This too shall pass" or "Life is hard--accept it and then the hard isn't something to dread," I get literally dozens of "thanks you's" from people who need to hear it too.

And so this morning, I'm not sure who I'm writing to or for. Maybe it's you or maybe it's me. Or maybe my teenage children or yours...but the fact remains. Life is hard and can feel SO hard that we get frustrated, impatient and at times downright shaking-in-our-boots fearful; but I know, having lived to the ripe ole' age of 50,that interlaced somewhere in all that hard, icky stuff really does lie a soft chewy middle--something my teens and I will eventually sink our teeth into--something that really will push us to a deeper center and a place of greater joy and richer, more meaningful connections--something that will undoubtedly taste so good and be so sweet, if we just stick it out.

So...the secret is out. Parenting is hard. So is life. Secret handshake revealed.

Gratitude comes in the strangest of places and at the most interesting times.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Circuits of Our Highest Potential

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Burkus

I am a very visual person. I immediately react to images as they come in through my eyes. I also do my greatest works of creation with my eyes closed. I can spend minutes a day, “picturing” what I wish to see in the world.

I’ve been attending many of our New Balance Girls on the Run 5k’s across the nation. Our numbers have been growing exponentially. Thousands and thousands of people are coming to the events. Virtually every city that hosts a New Balance Girls on the Run engages multiple tiers across their communities. We are no longer just impacting girls…but entire communities.

When I started Girls on the Run, my vision, while detailed and focused on the individual girl, also encompassed a larger viewpoint. In the very first materials, I discussed frequently of “the Girl Box” and the restraining limitations it’s placement over our bodies, voices and spirits had on our potential. I spoke often of “shattering that Girl Box” and creating a world where all girls and women are free to be themselves. The Girl Box was a metaphor for the gender stereotypes that cultures/societies/religions/political systems/familial systems (basically people) use to place others in a subordinate group in an effort to elevate themselves to a position of dominance.

Ironically, what I didn’t know at the time was…that my belief (along with constant conversation on the topic) in the Girl Box’s control over girls and women was actually a form of supporting its continued existence. The more I spoke of its control, the more control it had. When I viewed an airbrushed and dramatically altered image in a magazine, I was enraged. When I learned that one of my friends had chosen to “enhance” her breasts, I was both angered and judgmental of her. When I saw (at the time) Britney Spears and other teen idols perform with little to no clothing, I was furious. I was furious at them for “caving in” and I was angry at a culture that suggested that caving was the way to success, popularity and fame.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was how much all that anger was simply a form of giving the Girl Box more power. The angrier I got at it, the more it seemed to come up everywhere. The more I resisted it, the more it seemed to wedge its way into my life. The more I spoke of its existence, the more frequently I found it in people, magazines and circumstances. The Girl Box “context/filter” was affecting every byte of data coming into my reality.

Over the last several years has come a softening of that resistance. I’m not angry at it anymore. I just choose not to focus on it anymore and to focus on those instances, people and circumstances which free us, love us and lift us up. I think that Girls on the Run was the universe’s way of providing me with that freeing and unique perspective…one that I had trouble finding all on my own.

“That image is airbrushed and altered. How interesting that someone would consider this beautiful. Beautiful to me, is a woman draped beneath her natural skin. Character lines across her brow, around her eyes and lips, tell the story of a life well-lived. Breasts that naturally fall upon her chest are there to share the wonder of her changing femininity and the depth of her evolution. That image is airbrushed. I give it no attention, power or meaning.”

“My friend chose to get her breasts enhanced. How interesting. I love her so much. She helped me through a difficult time in my early sobriety. She has been a symbol of strength for many in how she managed her husband’s untimely and early death. She is a woman on her way, evolving, as I am evolving with every minute that passes.”

I pass up on the entertainment magazines that compare, gossip, bully and pass judgment on entertainers and opt for publications that tell stories of their perseverance, dedication to their craft and noteworthy performances.

Interestingly, I thought it would take decades and decades to eliminate the Girl Box…but ironically it doesn’t exist in my life anymore. Alright, so occasionally it will crop up…more so around my age these days then around my gender. It usually comes when I’m tired, ungrounded or too rushed…but I just recognize that the beliefs attached to it are those I can either choose to accept or not…and of course I choose not to accept them. Why would I choose to spend time with anything, person or situation (even a thought) that would limit the magnificence of who I am and what I bring to this world?

I find that I am no longer angry. Anger at the existence of the Girl Box or any other limitation on us suggests somehow that we have no control over those limitations. But the truth is…we do. We can control our thoughts and our actions…and every small action, word and thought I have which gives power to those things that enhance my potential is in essence not a shattering of the Girl Box but the elimination of its existence at all.

I stand at each finish line and watch the exuberant and radiant girls as they lift their hands high and realize that the Girl Box, not only has no control over her, but doesn’t EVEN exist in her reality. Our task, as leaders within this organization is not to resist or be angry at the Girl Box, but to join HER in her reality and recognize, once and for all, that the Girl Box is simply a figment of our culture’s imagination.

In her world, limitations don’t exist. In her world, we are free, limitless and able with each thought, action and word we choose to live our lives as she does…exuberant, radiant and with our arms, hearts and souls held high for the world to embrace, honor and celebrate! As a matter of fact, we expect nothing less. Look at me!!!! I’m amazing and so are you!!!!

Isn’t that why we are all somehow attracted to Girls on the Run? Here we can unravel from the imaginary world we’ve believed was real and connect to something that is truly real, pure, box-less and authentic. How has Girls on the Run helped you recognize and achieve your potential? What limiting (and imaginary) beliefs did you choose to accept before you came to Girls on the Run? Let me know at